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Monday, November 24, 2003

Bollettino

The Washington Post�s Sally Quinn profiles Ahmed Chalabi with the affection of a true D.C. insider. It is a profile that is heavy on the names of other D.C. insiders. As for the Iraqis, who are presumably going to be gifted, in Quinn�s opinion, with this amusing dinner guest, they don�t receive much mention. Quinn, of course, has the racism and snobbery inherent to her fragile hold on a doyenne�s position in what is, after all, an outrageously provincial town. The Post�s Style section belies the fact that the town has none. Hence for Quinn, the crucial question is who has the table manners. Being a hostess has given her an eye for these things. The Chalabis know how to use the salad forks � and can be forgiven for pocketing a few, especially if their pocketing is mostly confined to odious foreign money, Jordanians and whatnot. But as for the Iraqis, why, they just can�t be allowed to rule themselves. I mean, it is a look what the dogs brought in situation, mon cher. Here, for instance, is Quinn�s tres amusante description of a Council Member, Zebari, who obviously lacks Chalabi�s training in American table manners. In fact, Zebari brings out in Quinn those oily metaphors from her childhood that have died, in other places in this country, fifty years ago. The greasy Mexican, the wog, the buck nigger enjoying his melon � these are the figures that populate Quinn�s cramped mental space:
�After the Biden visit there is no time for a long lunch that Chalabi had planned, so it is decided that the Senate dining room will have to do. Both Chalabi and Zebari tuck their napkins into their collars. Zebari is fat and nervous, with eyes that dart around as if he can't believe he's here meeting with all these important people. Pachachi, on the other hand is tall, white-haired and elegant, with Old World manners, well traveled and totally comfortable in the corridors of power. According to Sethna, they've been worried about whether Zebari will know how to handle himself. "We're keeping our fingers crossed," says Sethna. "The foreign minister is new to this. He's not good in meetings with the senators."
It is clear that Zebari is not ready for prime time. After devouring his lunch, he has so many grease spots on his suit that he looks like he's had a head-on collision with a jar of olive oil. And this is before the White House meeting with Rice.�
The article is peppered with the usual WP habit of covering Iraq with complete inaccuracy. Quinn, for instance, quotes some poll about Chalabi�s popularity among Iraqis without bothering to source it, or consider the, uh, shall we say problem with taking polls in a war zone. And the article ends with a phone interview with Chalabi that is quite funny. Quinn, throwing in a novelistic patch, has earlier remarked that Chalabi lowers his eyebrows when he makes a self-flattering remark. Forgetting that she has just introed her penultimate grafs with: At midnight on Wednesday, after the U.S. reversal on the timing of sovereignty, Ahmed Chalabi was a happy man. "We made a deal," he exulted in a phone call from Baghdad,� she happily throws in her little novelistic technique: �And Chalabi is definitely optimistic about the future of Iraq. "Where we were and where we have gotten now is 80 percent of the road. I've had some influence," he added, lowering his eyelids, "but it would be foolish for one person to take the credit."
One wonders: does Chalabi say the last bit with a Peter Lorre accent?
Do read the article � it is such an unerring and unconscious parody of D.C.�s current radical right chic.




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